Deciphering the Chicago Bulls’ plan for the trade deadline

The Chicago Bulls are in an interesting position as the Feb. 7 trade deadline quickly approaches. This team expected to improve on their 27-55 record last season. However, due to injuries and a puzzling coaching change, the Bulls are 12-40. That’s currently the fourth-worst record in the NBA.

Considering their position relative to expectations, it’s hard to tell which direction the team should go. Should they sell some of their assets to open up cap space and accumulate more assets? Should they acquire more talent with an eye towards the future? Would staying pat at the deadline and figuring things out in the summer make the most sense?

In order to discern how the Bulls will tackle Deadline Day, let’s look at what’s on the table. What tools can they utilize? What needs do they have to feel? Has the team even come up in the rumor mills?

Even though Feb. 7 is the “big day”, the Bulls have already done some dealing over the past month. On Jan. 3 they shipped Justin Holiday to the Memphis Grizzlies. In exchange, they received Wayne Selden, MarShon Brooks, and the Grizzlies 2019 and 2020 second round picks. The Bulls subsequently waived Brooks.

On Jan. 7, Chicago sent their 2020 second round pick (with heavy protections) to the Houston Rockets for Michael Carter-Williams and cash. They also let Carter-Williams go without playing a game. The two franchises did business again on Jan. 22. This time, Chicago acquired Carmelo Anthony, the draft rights to Jon Diebler, and cash in exchange for the draft rights to Tadija Dragicevic.

The Bulls have left Anthony inactive for the five games since his arrival. They are keeping him out until they can trade him or buy him out. If he is dealt, he cannot be aggregated with another player in order to complete the deal.

Earlier in the year, buyout rumors also surrounded center Robin Lopez and forward Jabari Parker. However, Wendell Carter Jr.’s left thumb surgery has ruled him out for 8 to 12 weeks, altering any of those plans. The team needs bodies now to fill Carter’s vacant minutes. If Lopez and Parker leave the team, it will likely be via trade.

The Bulls also have plenty of draft picks to sweeten any deal they make. They own all of their own first round picks through 2025. They also hold at least one second round pick in each of those drafts. The Holiday-Selden deal helped replace the 2019 second round pick they lost in a summer 2016 trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, but now belongs to the Philadelphia 76ers. It also got them another second round selection for 2020.

So if the Bulls use those assets to make a deal, what should they be seek out? For one, veteran leadership is a huge need. Chicago has one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. Another veteran or two could steer the players in the right direction. Robin Lopez is the only active player that is 30 years old, and his professionalism and hustle set a good example for the bigs. The wings and guards could use that same guidance.

The Bulls could also use some depth at small forward. Rookie Chandler Hutchinson is developing nicely. His progress moved him into the starting role following Justin Holiday’s departure. However, a right foot injury has ruled him out through at least the All-Star break. While the 6’5″ Selden is filling in well, the Bulls could use another 3-and-D player that is between 6’7″ and 6’9″ to help bolster the lineup.

There have been some rumblings about moves the Bulls could make. However, the coverage hasn’t been extensive. We do know, via ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, that New Orleans Pelicans all-star Anthony Davis absolutely does not want to return to his hometown. However, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times indicated that representatives for Lakers guard Lonzo Ball wouldn’t mind him landing in Chicago if he is involved in a blockbuster Davis-related deal.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported that the Bulls front office is figuring out what to do with Kris Dunn. His deal is up in the summer of 2020, and his inconsistent play has the team questioning if they want him to be their point guard of the future. They are scouting veteran point guards that can either push him to be better or even replace him.

If they can’t complete a deal this week, they may seek out a vet in the offseason. In the interim, they would call up G League point guard and Chicago native Walt Lemon Jr. to serve as healthy competition. Lemon is averaging 21.0 points, 7.6 assists, and 4.4 assists in the minors this year. He started the year with the Maine Red Claws, but is currently with the Windy City Bulls.

There is no clear picture of what the Chicago Bulls want to do ahead of the trade deadline. They have already done their fair share of dealing, but they still have some assets to offer. There are definitely some needs to fill and a few rumblings of deals they could be involved in. Other than that, it’s a mystery. Figuring out if the team is buying, selling, or standing pat will bring plenty of intrigue for Bulls fans as Feb. 7 approaches.

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